Many in the U.S. consider Thanksgiving the most American of holidays. The feast appeals to every religious and ethnic group, honours a turning point in American history, and encourages a spirit of good will. Plus, Thanksgiving offers one of the best meals of the year!
In 1620, a group of 102 British people men, women and children called “Pilgrims” left Plymouth, England on the ship Mayﬂower because of religious persecution.
The boat arrived in Massachusetts in November and the Pilgrims called their new town Plymouth. The weather conditions were terrible during their ﬁrst winter in Plymouth Massachusetts and 49 Pilgrims died. But the Wampanoag Native American tribe helped the colonists grow food and collect and hunt edible plants and animals.
The Legend of the First Thanksgiving
In the autumn of 1621, grateful for their help during that difficult first year, the colonists invited Chief Massasoit and members of his Wampanoag tribe to join them. So, 90 Indians and 53 Pilgrims feasted for three days.
Thanksgiving the Holiday
George Washington proclaimed the first national Day of Thanksgiving in honour of the new constitution in 1789. In 1863, in the middle of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, a time for reconciliation and restoring national unity.
In 1941, Congress declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. This year it will be the 23rd.
Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a big dinner with foods that are native to the North American continent, which would have been new to the Pilgrims. People eat turkey, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cranberry sauce, sweetcorn and squash.
The day before Thanksgiving, U.S. President “pardons” a turkey provided by the National Turkey Federation. This tradition took hold after Ronald Reagan issued an official presidential pardon to a turkey in 1987 and sent it to a petting zoo instead.
Thanksgiving is an important holiday for families, as it is systematically a four-day weekend. In a country where many workers have no paid vacation days, it is often the longest break they can be sure of in the year.
Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday for American football players — it’s traditional to watch a match on Thanksgiving afternoon. There are lots of school and college matches, as well as professional ones. The NFL has been playing “turkey bowls” for as long as it has existed, and college football games are very common on the Friday and Saturday just after Thanksgiving.
Many people also watch or attend a Thanksgiving parade such as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit and parades in many other major U.S. cities.
And the day after the feast? Americans flock to shopping malls to start Christmas shopping. It’s been dubbed Black Friday, when huge sales abound everywhere and stores stay open late. Since 2005, this has been the busiest shopping day of the year. In 2015, American consumers spent $10.4 billion in shops and another $2.7 billion online on Black Friday.
Do you know that the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America was in Canada? In 1578, an English explorer named Martin Frobisher wanted to give thanks for his arrival to the New World. In Canada, Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration. It is an official holiday on the second Monday in October. But like the U.S., Canadians celebrate the holiday with parades, family dinners, pumpkin pie and a lot of turkey!
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